Trump: You know who's a terrific person? Pope Francis

Cancel the grudge match, order up the flowers. Both the Vatican and Donald Trump have offered kindlier words, better known as the modified limited hangout, after making global headlines with mutual criticisms. The Republican frontrunner told Greta van Susteren that he thinks Pope Francis is “terrific,” but simply is not well enough informed of the negative impact of illegal immigration on the US. The Fox host offered this brief sample of the interview that will air this evening:

Presidential hopeful Donald Trump is praising Pope Francis a day after he blasted the pontiff for seemingly questioning his faith and criticizing his proposal to build a wall on the nation’s southern border.

“I think he’s a terrific person, frankly,” Trump said of Francis during an interview with Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren slated to air Friday night.

“But to me it’s illegal immigration,” he continued. “I don’t think the pope really understood, in terms of the crime problem and the problems of illegal immigration.”

Trump’s gentler approach followed a clarification from the Vatican. Pope Francis meant his comments more generally, not as a personal judgment on Trump, and intend his remarks as advice or instruction on voting for Americans:

Lombardi told Vatican Radio that the pope’s comments, made to reporters during a flight back from Mexico in response to a specific question on Trump, were simply an affirmation of his long-standing belief that migrants should be helped rather than shut off behind walls.

“In no way was this a personal attack, nor an indication of how to vote,” Lombardi said. …

Lombardi said the pope believed people “should build bridges, not walls”. He added: “This is his general view, which is very consistent with courageously following the indications of the gospel on offering welcome and solidarity.”

So, all is forgiven, a rather fitting end to a 24-hour kerfuffle involving the Church. Or at least it is for public consumption in the short term.

However, it worked out pretty well for Trump in the end. He got to go on the offensive and defend his popular immigration policy on a world stage, dominate headlines for a day, and now has an opportunity to look magnanimous to a religious leader widely admired in the US — if not necessarily among conservatives. Having this clip go out in the afternoon means that Trump will get a chance at dominating news coverage in the last news cycle before South Carolina voters go to the polls in a more positive and statesman-like sense, too, and all without spending a dime.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on February 01, 2023